State of Wiki Usage (2012)
In February 2012, I published (with co authors Richard Murnane and John Willett) “The State of Wiki Usage in U.S. K-12 Schools: Leveraging Web 2.0 Data Warehouses to Assess Quality and Equity in Online Learning Environments” in Educational Researcher. The article can be read for free here and the online supplemental materials here. You can also click on the tabs for the Wiki Quality Instrument above to get access to our instrument and extensive methodological material. I am deeply grateful to the Hewlett Foundation’s Open Educational Resources Initiative for their support of our work.
White Paper for Educators
A short white paper aimed at educators, with advice for wiki-using teachers emerging from our findings is available here:
Multimedia Interviews, Lectures, and Opeds
Several multimedia pieces have been produced related to this work:
- A summary of my research was published by the McArthur Digital Media and Learning Initiative
- Radio Berkman, a production of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, recorded an interview of me by David Weinberger
- I’ve published two pieces related to issues of technology and equity:
To document wiki usage in U.S. K–12 settings, this study examined a representative sample drawn from a population of nearly 180,000 wikis. The authors measured the opportunities wikis provide for students to develop 21st-century skills such as expert thinking, complex communication, and new media literacy. The authors found four types of wiki usage: (a) trial wikis and teacher resource-sharing sites (40%), (b) teacher content-delivery sites (34%), (c) individual student assignments and portfolios (25%), and (d) collaborative student presentations and workspaces (1%). Wikis created in schools serving low-income students have fewer opportunities for 21st-century skill development and shorter lifetimes than wikis from schools serving affluent students. This study illustrates the exciting potential that Web 2.0 data warehouses offer for educational research.
My own opinion is that this article makes several important contributions to our understanding of learning technologies in the Web 2.0/networked era. First, as with many who have examined the use of social media in online learning, I am amazed and inspired by the best projects conducted using wikis. In projects like the Flat Classroom Projects, students develop skills in collaboration, cross-cultural communication, media literacy, and critical thinking. Nonetheless, these extraordinary examples appear to be rare peaks in the landscape of social media/peer production usage in school.
Our core substantive findings cohere with results from the last three decades of education technology research: most teachers use wikis to extend existing practices rather than to innovate with new practices (at least through 2010) and wikis are more likely to be used to develop 21st century skills in schools serving wealthy students. From my perspective, these findings show that advocates of social media in the classroom have much work to do if we hope that the potential of these tools can be unleashed broadly in schools.
Methodologically, I hope the paper demonstrates the incredibly exciting potential of online learning environments for educational research. Our research team was capable of studying wikis both in depth, by examining the historical details of every wiki, and at scale, by sampling from hundreds of thousands of learning environments. The instrument we developed, The Wiki Quality Instrument, allowed us to use publicly viewable learning environments to measure opportunities for 21st century skill development across a diverse universe of wiki learning environments. We happened to take an interest in issues specifically related to learning technologies, but in the future, the kinds of analytic techniques have tremendous potential for studying diverse phenomena in education and learning.
My complete dissertation can be found here.